Elite vocalists sing their hearts out

On the morning of his big performance, vocal student Jonathan Hernandez' day was much like any other. He sang at his church in the morning and even ate Wendy's for lunch.

Even though he only had a week and a half of practice with his band, he was ready to put on a memorable performance later that night.

Singers from Santa Monica College's applied music program and advanced vocal class showcased their talents at the annual Vocal Department Showcase last Sunday at the SMC Performing Arts Center.

Janelle DeStefano, director of the showcase, picked 17 advanced vocalists to perform with an accompanist that played eclectic styles of music.

"It's not always about the most beautiful voice," DeStefano said. "There are plenty of beautiful voices that I say whoa to a lot of potential, but there has to be a certain level of independence."

DeStefano said she was not focused on beautiful voices as much as the full package of a vocalist. The 17 vocalists were chosen based on their knowledge from previous technical vocal courses and their ability to comfortably practice songs independently.

SMC vocal student Ashley Crawford has been singing since elementary school and at SMC for three years. She performed "Hell on Heels" by country band Pistol Annies.

"I get into little kicks," Crawford said, "Last year was about Adele. This semester, I was like, I'll change it up and do a country song."

Crawford practiced numerous times with an accompanist to master her song. Not only did she sing, but she also engaged the audience with a few snaps and dance moves to really make the crowd a part of her performance.

Vocal student Jessica Lopez decided to kick it up a notch by singing a full Italian song "Lascia Ch'io Pianga" from George Frideric Handel's opera, "Rinaldo."

"I speak Spanish, so singing Italian wasn't that bad," Lopez said.

Lopez was originally majoring in nursing, but switched to music. She said she has always loved music, but was pursuing nursing to follow what her parents thought was a good path for her.

This showcase also allowed SMC vocal student Christopher Chappell to sing something that was once foreign to him. He performed "Il Mio Bel Foco," attributed to Benedetto Marcello.

"I started singing in choirs in middle school, but I didn't do my solo stuff until I came to SMC," Chappell said. "Let us just say it was an interesting process."

Hernandez decided to go out with a bang by performing Otis Redding's "Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay" and Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy" with a live band.

In addition to the vocal showcase, SMC's music department hosts several concerts throughout the semester. The next performance will be by the jazz ensemble on Sunday, April 28 at the SMC Performing Arts Center.